This is the Part 6 in a series of interviews with the director and cast members of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meet Ben Lauer.
Joel: How did you become involved with this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? What did you perform at your audition?
Ben: I had a small part in Annapolis’s Much Ado over the summer, a Watchman and a Messenger, and auditioned for the rest of the season after that. I think I did monologues by Berowne (Love’s Labours) and Bassanio (Merchant), maybe something from 2 Henry IV, and then read from a few of the upcoming shows.
Why did you want to play the role of Demetrius, and what is the most fun about playing him?
I’ve always wanted to play one of the lovers in Midsummer, ever since I worked on the show in college. For me, this is actually one of those bucket list roles. It seemed like a real challenge, because there all of these things that actors need to fit into these four characters. There’s a lot of juicy text (I get to say, “These things seem small and undistinguishable to me/Like far off mountains turned into clouds.” How great is that?. There’s a lot of romance, a lot of comedy, a lot of physicality and movement, and so on. And you need a lot of energy, because some of those scenes for the lovers are long and the audience is counting on you to get them through. So, for a few years, I’ve been hoping I’d have a chance to try to play Demetrius or Lysander.
I think the most fun part, ultimately though, has been figuring out who Demetrius is, how he is, ultimately, redeemable, and working with Ashlyn to figure out how to make Helena and Demetrius’s relationship one that we end up rooting for.
What are some of the suggestions that Kristin has given you on playing your roles that has made your performance better?
It’s been a lot of fun just to figure out Demetrius together: why he acts the way he does, why he strays from Helena for Hermia, how his worldview is pieced together, how he is changed ultimately by his journey through the forest. He’s been a tough character for me to figure out at times, so I’m always glad to be able to ask Kristen, “Is this working? Is it clear what I’m trying to do here?”
How does the design of the show affect your performance?
It’s been great to have a big, open space to play in. Midsummer is such a physical show that it’s helpful to have a lot of room to run around.
When did you get the ‘Theater Bug’? Where did you get your theatre training?
Freshman year of high school, we performed monologues from Romeo and Juliet in English class. Later that year, I was down at the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, VA, and my family and I saw that they have a summer camp. I said, “Sure.” I had fun with that “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks” stuff. I could do that for three weeks this summer, and I did. Last May I graduated from William and Mary’s theatre program, and now I’m here!
Have you appeared in other Shakespearean productions and who were your favorite roles?
I played Master Page in Merry Wives of Windsor at school, but really enjoyed some of the roles I got to play years ago at the ASC Theatre Camp, like Benedick in Much Ado.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members’ performances and each other’s performance?
There’s a lot to admire in Midsummer. I love that there has been a lot of creativity and ideas flying around: Gray and Nick especially are just fountains of ideas, always coming up with something new, and Kristen’s been really good about taking them in, trying things, and finally deciding what works and what doesn’t. It’s been great to bond with Amanda, Joel, and Ashlyn too. We’ve spent a lot of time together with Kristen trying to figure out some of the lovers’ trickier, more physical scenes, and since we’ve all got different ways of working and have had different experiences, I’ve learned a lot from them. Many of the actors in the production have a lot of valuable experience, so it’s also nice to work with them. This is only my second professional show, so it’s great to meet some folks that I can approach for advice.
Which character in the play is most like you?
Occasionally I’m mischievous (and tactless) like Puck. At other times, I think I know everything, like Bottom. There have certainly been points in my life when I’ve acted most like Demetrius too.
How can 2013 audiences relate to A Midsummer...?
Midsummer is Shakespeare’s great meditation on the multifariousness of love so a lot of people will see something of their past or present romances in the play. I sure do. I think the lovers are especially easy to relate to; everyone, when young, does stupid things for love, or occasionally finds him or herself pursuing a relationship he or she ought not pursue. These four run through a forest doing all sorts of things they shouldn’t, saying things they don’t mean, scrapping and fighting with one another, their dear friends. Demetrius is awful to Helena in the first part of the play, because he’s young and confused. I suspect that a lot of people can remember making youthful mistakes like that themselves.
What roles that you haven’t played yet are on your top 5 list?
Hal in I Henry IV is on the top of the list, along with Weinburl in Stoppard’s On The Razzle. And I’ve always wanted to be some kind of narrator in A Christmas Carol. I love A Christmas Carol. “Marley was dead…” I love that. Love it. Or maybe Scrooge’s nephew. Really, I just want to be in A Christmas Carol.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
It would be great if my performance got them to remember a time when they made some foolish mistakes in love, or were confused in love, but then got back on the right path. To me, that’s Demetrius’s story: he’s tempted by someone different and new who isn’t right for him, but is fortunate enough to end up with the right girl, on the right track, in the end. At the start of the whole process, Kristen said something that I wrote down, “We all have to go into the woods,” meaning that we all have to be young and to fall into and out of love and to figure ourselves out, we have to hike uncharted trails and stumble over all kinds of roots in our lives. I’d like to share that with our audiences.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays from December 6-22, 2013 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.
Interviews with the director and cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Joel Markowitz on DCMetroTheaterArts:
Part 1: Director Kristin Clippard.
Part 2: Nick DePinto (Puck).
Part 3: Meet Amanda Forstrom (Hermia).
Part 4: Joel DeCIandio (Lysander).
Part 5: Ashlyn Thompson (Helena).
Part 6: Ben Lauer (Demetrius).